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Top 10 Dystopian Love Stories

Updated on April 10, 2014

Dystopian Novels with a Love Story

It's a dark, scary world out there- at least, that's what these books would have you believe. Dystopian books generally show the world as a haunting, dreary place. Their version of reality is really quite pessimistic.

Yet, the following books have a beautiful element of love that overcomes their murky setting. Whether it's the love between a father and his son, a friendship formed between strangers, or the ongoing friendship transcending their circumstances, these books show that strong relationships can overcome the bleakest of environments.

Photos courtesy of morguefile.com

#10- The Host

by Stephanie Meyer

If you haven't read this book yet, now is the time. This book (written by Stephanie Meyer of the Twilight series), will also soon be released as a major motion picture.

This book is the only one on the list that includes an alien element. Parasitic aliens have taken over most of the human population, save a few. Melanie Stryder is one of those not yet possessed...but when she later is, she fights the host and refuses to allow it to take over her mind. She keeps remembering Jared, a man she is in love with, as well as her brother, Jamie. As she bombards the alien with memories of them, the alien forms an attachment to these figures just as she does.

Not Sure if The Host is For You? - Check out the movie trailer to see if it catches your eye...

#9- Super Sad True Love Story

by Gary Shteyngart

The scene is New York in what could be the near future. America has become a totalitarian government, and may soon collapse due to debts to China. Consumerism and materialism have taken over American values, and a Big Brother system rules. The main character, Leonard Abramov (a janitor), falls in love with a young woman, Eunice Park. They write back and forth through old-fashioned diary entries and online writings, and try to maintain love in spite of this haunting, startlingly real version of America.

This amazing novel has one numerous awards, including the Salon Book Award (2010), the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, and was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

#8- Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

This book is told from the point of view of Kathy, a graduate of Hailsham, a special private boarding school. She tells of her memories of her friends and schoolmates, Ruth and Tommy. The three friends grow up under very strange circumstances, which Kathy relates to the reader in a calm, even-toned narrative.

What sets this book apart from others is that it is written in such a complex, teasing manner. Readers are forced to "read between the lines" and examine the pieces of truth as the author reveals them. It is the equivalent of a symphony, scavenger hunt, or jigsaw puzzle. When the book is over, the pieces are assembled and the reader can sit back and go, "Woah."

One of the most masterful parts of this book involves the complex relationships between Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy D. This book examines their complex relationship that develops in a haunting atmosphere.

#7- Ender's Game

by Orson Scott Card

This fantastic book, like several on our list, takes place in America. The Earth has just defeated the Buggers, an invading alien race. In order to prevent future attacks, the International Fleet (IF) has set up a training school for brilliant children. Ender has been selected to attend, and leaves his family, bullying older brother Peter and sweet sister Valentine, in order to begin at Battle School.

After Ender and Valentine are separated, the book alternates chapters showing how their lives take separate paths. Even though they are thousands of miles away from each other, the strength of their relationship is shown again and again.

Ender, the most brilliant child to enter Battle School, is faced with larger and larger challenges. His clever abilities allow him to defeat them all. But as the games become more and more intense, will he crack under the pressure or beat the odds?

Read the book now, because the motion picture is currently out! Check out the trailer below.

Ender's Game - Finally made into a movie!

This movie was a long time coming, and it's finally been made!

#6- The Giver

by Lois Lowry

If you haven't read this young adult classic, you're missing out.

In this story, Lowry shows the importance of all human emotions. She creates a world where the vast majority of society is spared from feeling any emotions whatsoever. The community functions with bland day to day activities.

When the main character, Jonas, becomes an adult in their society, he is given the role of Receiver of Memories. It is then that he finds out what true life is all about.

The Giver won the 1994 Newbery Medal, and Is an excellent choice for children and adults alike.

The Giver - Coming to theatres August 2014!

I'm so excited to see this wildly popular novel adapted to a movie. Should be great!

#5- The Time Machine

Many dystopian novels get their inspiration from this classic story by H. G. Wells. Even though it was written in 1895, it is still a thrilling and fantastic story to read today.

This novel is credited with spreading the idea of "time travel," and it is an excellent source for many steampunk enthusiasts. The story presents the Time Traveller (unnamed) falling in love with a woman named Weena from thousands of years in the future (802,701 A.D., to be precise). Of course, to find out the complexities and outcome of their romance, you must read the novella.

#4- The Hunger Games Trilogy

These bestselling young-adult novels have taken the world by storm over the past couple years. In The Hunger Games, the main character, Katniss Everdeen, tries to stay alive as she is forced to participate in a twisted fight-to-the-death survival game against 23 other children. Throuhgout the story, Suzanne Collins interweaves a complex friendship between Katniss and Peeta, a fellow hunger games participant. This gruesome, heart-pounding novel shows the very best and worst of human instincts.

With the first novel already made into a major movie, and the second movie coming out in November, now is the perfect time to jump on the Hunger Games bandwagon if you haven't already.

Uncertain About The Hunger Games? - Check out the movie trailer to see if it's up your alley...

Already saw The Hunger Games? - Check out the Catching Fire Trailer!

This movie came out last November, and it's now available to rent or buy. Check it out now- the third of four movies is coming out next year!

#3: Ninteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell

You can't mention the term "dystopia" without Ninteen Eighty-Four coming to mind. This is one of the most popular novels of all time, and definitely deserving of your time. This book shows the limits and power of the human spirit, while teaching a lesson about the importance of love to the human experience.

Ever heard of the phrase "Big Brother" in regards to government? You can thank Nineteen Eighty-Four for that.

Though the book is 65 years old this year, it remains a relevant and important landmark of dystopian literature. Celebrate it's birthday by checking it out!

#2- Anthem

by Ayn Rand

Anthem is one of Ayn Rand's shorter works, and is much more accessible and readable than some of her other books. This novella takes place in the future, and tells the story of two people who strive to be free individuals during strict oppression, and their journey together to find themselves.

Rand creates a world that has taken away any concept of individuality. Even using the word "I" is a crime worthy of death. This makes the novel a bit tricky at the start, as the main character uses plural pronouns (such as we and they) to refer to himself. However, once you get over that hurdle, this book is a page-turner that will keep your heart pounding and your brain thinking to the very end.

Ayn Rand is one of the greatest authors of any time period; if you haven't read her books before, this would be an excellent starting point.

#1- The Road

by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy's about survival in a post-apocalyptic world demonstrates the unending love between father and son. The duo works to stay alive, battling other humans, the elements, and inner turmoil. In an America that has become a ruined landscape, they travel down a road towards the coast, though they don't know if their destination will prove any better than their current bleak situation.

This book is definitely a page-turner. I read it in one suspenseful sitting, and it's the type of book that stays with you long after you've finished the final sentence. Though I haven't seen the movie, I'm sure it doesn't do justice to McCarthy's telling.

This book was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, and it was also featured as a selection for Oprah's Book Club.

Not Sure if You'd Like The Road? - Check out the movie trailer here to get a "taste" of the book..

Dystopian Discussions - Guestbook Comments

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    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 3 years ago

      @anonymous: I agree- it's not an uplifting book, but amazing nonetheless.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 3 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for the feedback!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Cormac McCarthy is an amazing enough writer that I found it difficult to put down. But I didn't find it very uplifting. It was touching, the protagonist's love for his son, but not the kind of hero's journey that I prefer to read. Great collection of dystopian stories and thoughtful review!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Your review-writing style makes me want to buy every book. Clearly, this is one of the best review lens I've read, and I've been reading for a couple of days. I'm a newbie and I've only created 2 lenses, just browsing around to see what Squidoo has to offer. I'm going to bookmark your lens for future reference.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @TheKimIsMe: I enjoyed it as well. I just saw Ender's Game (I love the book) and the movie was great!

    • profile image

      TheKimIsMe 4 years ago

      i like this,

      i love the idea of reading the book before watching the movie.

      it gives me some kind of excitement

      paper to picture kind of thing

      great job!

    • jcortright profile image
      Author

      jcortright 4 years ago

      @CuriousBoy: Thanks! I love watching the movie after I see the book, so I thought it would be a good way to visualize what you might want to read.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      I like all the books you recommended that I've read, which is about half of them, so I'll trust you on the others too. Thanks

    • profile image

      CuriousBoy 4 years ago

      I liked the idea to associate the book review to the video trailer.

      Well done!

    • profile image

      ClaudiaWest 4 years ago

      Great recommendations. I took a whole class in college called "Apocalyptic Fiction." Some of the books we read that I liked included:

      Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood. This was my favorite book in the class. It brings up a lot of ethical questions (esp. bioethics). The main character isn't even a particularly willing participant in his own life.

      On The Beach by Nevil Shrute: this was also made into a film with Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Gregory Peck. I haven't watched the film, though. The premise is that nuclear war has taken out most of the world's superpowers and the nuclear fallout cloud is slowly moving across the world (through winds). Australia is one of the last to go, and people have reverted to a more agrarian state (with no gasoline coming in from other countries, they're back to horses and donkeys). The population of Melbourne is just waiting out their days, and they start to lose contact with northern Australian cities...

      Part of what I liked about the language in On The Beach is similar to Never Let Me Go- a haunting sort of acceptance with few strong emotions. In Never Let Me Go, it's a strange situation to us, but a normal situation to the main characters, who don't know any other life.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 4 years ago from US/TN

      I read a couple of these books (Ender's Game and Time Machine) a long time ago. I've had The Host on my wish list for a while but haven't gotten it yet. Maybe I need to give it another look.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @Board-Game-Brooke: Also- if you've read Ender's Game, I'd recommend Ender's Shadow if you haven't read it yet. It's amazing, because it is written as a parallel novel to Ender's Game...the two novels take place at the same time.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I haven't read the book The Road but the movie is great. Now to read the book.

    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 4 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      I've only read one of these - looks like I need to hurry up and read the rest!

    • michelleroe profile image

      michelleroe 4 years ago

      Thanks for the recommendations, I might look for a couple of them! Great lens!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @rattie lm: If you haven't read Ender's Game, I'd recommend that one! Very entertaining, and for me it was a super quick read! Like pretty much everything on this list, I couldn't put it down!

    • NuttSoRuff profile image

      NuttSoRuff 4 years ago

      5 of the books you suggested sound really interesting to me. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 4 years ago

      Glad I found this lens. Now I can spend my Christmas voucher!

    • cocomoonbeams profile image

      cocomoonbeams 4 years ago

      I read and seen both the Hunger Games and The Road. I will have to check out some of your other suggestions.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @Steve Dizmon: Thanks! I recommend #1 next :)

    • Steve Dizmon profile image

      Steve Dizmon 4 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Interesting subject. I have read numbers 2, 3, 5, 6 & 7 on your list. Nicely done.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @The-Quirky-Banana: I agree- I love that genre, too!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @eccles1: Thanks!

    • Jillynn profile image

      Jillynn 4 years ago

      Some very good reads. Thanks!

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 4 years ago

      Very nice lens!! The Host looks like a good one.

    • profile image

      The-Quirky-Banana 4 years ago

      Dystopian makes for such an interesting genre- I've read some of these books and they are among my favourites. Thanks for the others- now I know what I should read! :)

    • Lilie profile image

      Lilie 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this lens! I just got a new reading list :)

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @PNWtravels: I recommend reading Ender's Game. It's coming out as a movie this November, so if you get a chance to read it in the coming months you'll have something to compare it to!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @gemjane: Thanks! This lens took me a long time, but it was worth it, since I love this genre!

    • profile image

      gemjane 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing, and for taking the trouble to fill your lens with interesting content, and having a balanced number of things to buy, compared with the amount of content. Interesting--I've read a few of them.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 4 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Great list of dystopian books. I confess this isn't really my favorite genre, so the only one I've read is 1984. I have seen several movies that were recently made based on these books and enjoyed your reviews.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @Spirality: I agree!! I don't read 'romance' novels,. but I love that these novels show that love (between family, friends, or lovers) can survive the bleakest circumstances...even though it sometimes ends in tragedy.

    • Spirality profile image

      Spirality 4 years ago

      These are great choices! Even though I dislike romance, it's not the basis of most of the stories. The story of survival is what I am more interested in reading.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 4 years ago

      Thank you for introducing these books! I wish I had more time to read!!!!! Blessed!

    • Woodsusa profile image

      Woodsusa 4 years ago

      I love these selections...especially 'The Host', 'Hunger Games', and 'the Road'! Great lens!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @athomemomblog: I haven't seen that movie yet..the book was terrifying, though!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @retta719: Awesome! I'd recommend Ender's Game, if you haven't read it!

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      I haven't read any of these but some have been on my wishlist for a while.

    • retta719 profile image

      Loretta 4 years ago from United States

      Great reading list - three of these are about to hit my Kindle for spring break reading material :) Thank you!

    • athomemomblog profile image

      Genesis Davies 4 years ago from Guatemala

      Great list of books! I've read most of them and enjoyed all but The Road, which was one of the few movies I've seen that was better than the book.

    • athomemomblog profile image

      Genesis Davies 4 years ago from Guatemala

      @jcortright: Most people think of dystopian as "utopia gone bad," hence the reason most do not consider post-apocalyptic books to be dystopian. I think it's a pretty common misconception.

    • profile image

      RetireAt57 4 years ago

      Nice list. i will put a few on my summer reading list!

    • kcsantos profile image

      kcsantos 4 years ago

      I'm looking forward to read The Giver. Anyway, I love Never Let Me Go. Dystopian Romance is now a trend in terms of entertainment. Thanks for sharing this. Nothing wrong about it

    • Stretchpants profile image

      Stretchpants 4 years ago

      @Mawkjump: Specifically in Young Adult fiction, it seems. The Maze Runner is coming out in theaters next year, so I'm sure it will only fuel the fire.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @cyberflutist: 1984 is a brutal book, isn't it!? And The Time Machine is a great concept as well. Right now I'm starting Pastwatch, by Orson Scott Card. That book also deals with time travel (but not space travel). You might want to check it out!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @Mawkjump: It really is! Did you read any other books in the Ender Series? Ender's Shadow is even better than Ender's Game, in my opinion!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @Fran Tollett: That's the way it goes with me, too! I remember reading The Road in one afternoon, and zipping through The Hunger Games even more quickly. It's amazing what a good book can do!

    • Tennyhawk profile image

      Tennyhawk 4 years ago

      @Fran Tollett: That's the way my experience with the Hunger Games books went, Fran. The first one took me a while to get through, but then I whizzed through the second and third one (a little too fast, I think--it gave me a headache). But there are some amazing books and movies coming out featuring dystopian themes, and it's exciting to watch the genre grow. Thanks for highlighting this trend, jcortright.

    • Fran Tollett profile image

      Fran Tollett 4 years ago

      There looks to be some good movies coming out. I enjoy reading BUT once I get into the story I don't want to stop reading and usually wind up staying up too late read LOL.

    • Mawkjump profile image

      Mawkjump 4 years ago

      Nothing like the End of the World to remind us of what's important. I've read Ender's Game, the Hunger Games trilogy, and a few others. The Road was heart-breaking. Dystopian is definitely an emerging trend in fiction today.

    • cyberflutist profile image

      cyberflutist 4 years ago

      I've read The Hunger Games trilogy, and seen the movies of 1984 and The Time Machine. 1984 is so brutal that I can't say I like it. Frightening even. I really like The Time Machine because I love the concept of time travel. The idea of traveling through time, but not space, isn't usually done, and I find that also very interesting.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @donaldwilson: You need to read Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games book! It's even better than the first!

    • donaldwilson profile image

      Don Wilson 4 years ago from Yakima, WA

      Of all those books, I've only read The Hunger Games. I sure enjoyed that one, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @getmoreinfo: Great to hear! Me too! :)

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @GabrielaFargasch: Awesome! I read The Giver in 5th Grade, and I just had to include it on the list. Even though it's a book for young adults, it's such a classic!

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      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      I like these kinds of Dystopian Novels with a Love Story

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      GabrielaFargasch 4 years ago

      I read all of them! THE GIVER and THE Hunger Games were my favorites!

    • jcortright profile image
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      jcortright 4 years ago

      @mojoCNYartist: I think it's definitely a love story! It might not be romantic, but it shows the love between father and son...in my introduction, I explain that "love" has a greater meaning that simply romance.

      Also, The Road is dystopian. The definition of dystopia is

      "1. An imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror."- from thefreedictionary.com

      The Road definitely fits that definition!

      I think you'll find that most post-apocalypse books are dystopian in nature. It's kind of hard for them NOT to be, since a post-apocalypse scenario is imaginary and is definitely terrifying!

    • mojoCNYartist profile image

      Dan 4 years ago from CNY

      The Road isn't dsytopian. It's Apocalyptic/end of the world, and it isn't a love story either.